You can find Part 1 for how to be a good parent when your own parents suck HERE: http://www.sevencherubs.com/2014/12/how-to-be-good-parent-when-your-own.html
So now that you know a little about where I am coming from in relation to parenting...the question then becomes how do we go about being a good parent when we feel we don't have a good example to follow. How do we make that actually happen in our lives?
Here are my tips for being a good parent and are the tips that I personally followed. These are what worked for me and take what you want from them for your own life and family:
1. Stop blaming your parents. Living in the past and blaming your parents for things that they did or did not do is not going to help anyone. I know. I spent way too much time doing it myself over the years. I let it hold me back. Sure, the way you were raised can influence who you are, the way you think and the decisions you make and we do need to take the time to heal from any serious hurt they may have caused but we don't need to be like them in our own lives. If you want to be different from your parents, stop focusing on them and focus on yourself instead. You can't change them but you can change yourself. Make a decision to be different. Then make changes to move on. With or without them in your life.
2. Educate yourself. If you have no idea how to be a good parent because the example given to you was bad, tragic and unhealthy, then take the time to educate yourself on what a generally good parent looks like, feels like and acts like. Read books, attend free or paid parenting classes, search on the internet, read parenting websites, talk to families you admire about what they do in their homes, find a parenting mentor and put in the time and effort to learn what you need to. Being a parent is one of the longest/most important work/commitment/dedicated assignments/roles you will have in your life! Take the time to educate yourself about the type of parent you want to be.
3. Create your own parenting vision. Look at how you were raised, look at what you liked and what you didn't like, then decide what traditions/values you want to keep and what you want to get rid of. When you become a parent you create a new family unit, you get to decide (with your partner if you have one) how you will raise your children. You determine what you will value and what your parenting goals or vision will look like. You do not have to immediately begin parenting exactly how you were raised. If you need to completely start fresh, this is your opportunity to do so. Your parenting vision might be the opposite or even slightly different from your parents but the important thing is that it is your personal vision.
4. Make your own decisions: Now I know there are some parents out there who are very controlling of their adult children but generally speaking...when you become a parent yourself, you get to make your own decisions regarding the raising of your child/children. Do not give this responsibility away to anyone else. Hold onto it fiercely and protect it. Making decisions for your family and children is scary! I get that and we all want to seek advice so that we can make the best decision possible. Sometimes seeking advice can make matters worse and we can end up more confused than when we started! If you feel you have parents who suck...be careful asking them for advice. Remember it is advice, you don't have to follow what they say. The final decision on anything for your family is your decision. Children need parents who are prepared to make decisions, who trust their instincts and try their best to move the family forward. You will make mistakes along the way. We all do.
5. Practice forgiveness on a daily basis: I love that every day is a fresh start. A chance to do better, to be better and to parent better. As a mother I have made many mistakes. I have lost my temper, been the kind of mother at times I never believed I would be and worst of all...at times seen flashes of my own parents in myself! The Horror! I have tried my best to fix situations after those parenting moments and I have gone out of my way to say sorry, to restore love to my home and to start again. That is all we can do as parents, to begin again and to try better. I also have extended that same forgiveness to my own parents - you can read how I forgive, but don't forget, to protect my children here: http://www.sevencherubs.com/2013/04/how-to-forgive-but-not-forget-when.html
6. Prepare yourself for some serious backlash! If you are going to strive to be a good parent, no matter who you are and what type of parents you had, you will have people who don't like how you are raising your children. People are passionate about parenting and have no problem letting you know if you are doing something they don't agree with. If you are raising your children very differently than your parents did, then expect some backlash! My parents are horrified that I am raising my children with religious values and have had no problem expressing that to me over the years. They, like anyone, are entitled to their opinion about my parenting and I of course am entitled to not listen to a word of it and to keep doing what I know is best for my family!
7. You are not alone. This is important to remember and it comforts me on many long lonely days. Especially on those days where I feel like all the children are against me and that I am the only one who is trying to teach, train and hold the family together! It can feel like no-one understands what you are going through and how hard this trail blazing parenting journey really is when you have nothing to go from. I have been surprised just how many other women feel the same way I do about having parents who suck! Knowing that I am not alone has brought me comfort and peace. There are so many people who feel this way about their parents and yet are out there trying their best to be good parents. They are making it happen and giving it a go! They are moving forward and having success. That inspires me to keep trying every day.
8. Practice self compassion: We are so hard on ourselves as parents. We naturally compare ourselves to everyone around us. We measure our 'worst days or moments' with the 'best days or moments' of every parent we know. We especially compare ourselves to our own parents! This is a constant problem if we are trying to not be anything like our parents!! For me, my goal is not to try to be bitter or high and mighty or revengeful in not being like my parents, I just want to do things differently in my own home. To feel good about doing this I need to practice self compassion along with forgiveness. I need self compassion to remind myself that I am walking my own parenting path and to stay focused on the vision ahead of me.
One key aspect of finding and feeling successful as a parent when you haven't had good parents yourself is to realise that the way you were raised is not a personal reflection on who you are. If your parents made bad choices or were hurtful in anyway, that was their decision, not yours. If you can let go of that sorrow and focus on your own vision for your family, you will have success.
Also, I totally understand that trying to be a good parent when you didn't have good parents yourself brings immense pressure. It is a pressure that can cause you to act in ways that you don't want to, you can stress out more, you can be more anxious, you can find it hard to relax and to enjoy parenting because there is so much pressure to get it right after being raised wrong. It is not easy to find the right balance of letting go of that pressure.
I don't have all the answers about how to be a good parent. I am learning about what works best for our family just like you. Along the way these tips above have helped me move forward and have helped me feel confident about the path and journey we are taking. Thank you for taking the time to read them and all the best in your parenting journey.